In a recent video with The Young Turks, host John Iadarola featured the legal battle of #New Zealand's Iwi people, and their victory at having the #Whanganui River granted the same legal rights as a human being. A piece of legislation, known as the Whanganui River Claims Settlement Bill, has been drafted specifying that "two people will and speak on behalf of the river." The New Zealand government and the Iwi people will select the river's representatives.
Chris Finlayson, the treaty negotiations minister, says the Iwi have fought for the recognition for the river "since the 1870s," which TYT founder Cenk Uygur stated "is amazing." The river is known as Te Awa Tupua to the Iwi Maori. Mr. Finlayson suggested that some might find it "strange" to grant a river a "legal personality," but compared it with the legal standing of corporations, family trusts, and incorporated societies.
Which is more 'of a person?' A river or a corporation?
Mr. Uygur described finding the headline "silly" when he first learned of a river being granted the same legal status as a person, but noted he doesn't have the perspective of a member of the Iwi tribe. The TYT host described "reading into" the matter, and coming to find it to be "interesting," particularly the comparison between the legal standing of a natural resource, such as a river, with a corporation. Uygur asked which is more "of a person? A river or a corporation?"
Though he stated a belief that neither is a person, he agreed that rivers are "much more alive" than corporations. The TYT host held the matter up as a reason why "diversity is interesting;" if New Zealand had ignored the Iwi, he would never have had their perspective to consider. He described the perspective of the Iwi, with how the river is intertwined into their own lives, to be fascinating.
$111 million in monetary compensation
John Iadarola noted that the Whanganui River is the "longest navigable" in the nation, and that, at one time, the majority of the members of the Iwi lived on its banks. With colonization, the Iwi were displaced, giving rise to the 150-year legal battle. The bill also includes $111 million in monetary compensation for the Iwi and the future care of the river. John Iadarola noted that some of the funds are reported to be going toward a clean-up effort associated with wildlife being poisoned from a nearby volcano.